Saturday, January 10, 2015

Volley On The Move

Many of my students come to me as beginners - 'never-evers'. As such, they all love volleys because the volley is one shot in tennis that has the potential for immediate success. If I do my job and toss the ball to just the right spot, I can get a five-year-old hitting winning volleys during their first lesson. And therein lies the problem: it's too easy!

Volley on the Move is a drill by teaching pro Joey Rive, featured in a recent issue of Tennis magazine. Joey addresses the 'too easy' problem with many standard volley drills. I love that his drill is a live ball drill and thus gets players out of their comfort zones. You will need at least two players who can hit cross court and rally.

Both players start at deuce side baseline. They begin a cross court rally. One player remains at the baseline. The other player, who is working on their volleys, takes a few steps toward the net after every ball. Note we are not demanding this player hit every shot as a volley; only that they move in after every shot. As this player moves closer to the net, decisions become more challenging: to volley or not to volley? Half volleys and swinging volleys are okay. The point is to handle themselves well while on the move toward the net.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Goal Setting For Young Players

It's that time of year - everyone is scrambling to come up with some New Year's Resolutions that won't bore the socks of themselves. Studies show that more than 90% of resolutions fail. But we can always be part of the 10%! Let's take the basic principle and apply it to your young player's tennis future.

For beginners:
  • Understand the scoring structure for your age group. Red Ball players use 1st to 7; Orange Ball and older typically use the traditional 15-30-40-game scoring.
  • Be able to keep track of the score during the game, regardless of who is serving.
  • Understand what the serve is (starts the point), how to do it (bounce, underhand or overhand) and where it's supposed to land (cross court service box).
  • Remember to call the score if you are serving. Always say your own score first.
  • Know all the parts of the court like you know your name: baseline, service line, service boxes, deuce and ad sides, alleys, the T, the back court, No Man's Land.
  • Look for opportunities to play an actual match. Clinics are great for learning skills, but as the saying goes, practicing tennis without ever playing a match is like studying for a test you never take. Look for free or inexpensive Play Days in your area. Too easy? Try Jr. Team Tennis or a Rising Stars one day tournament.
Beyond Beginners:
  • Serve with continental grip.
  • Serve consistently at least 7 out of 10 in.
  • Commit to advancing your skills to the next level of the tennis skill pyramid.
  • Commit to advancing to the next level ball. For example, if you are an orange ball player now, focus on getting to green ball level.
  • Learn how to use Tennislink to find tournaments or other events in your area.
  • Learn how to use TennisLink to track your state ranking and that of your opponents.
  • Learn the local rules for playing for your local high school team. In my area, 7th graders and older are eligible to try out, and many of our teams are No-Cut.
  • Attend more matches as a fan, such as
    • local high school team's matches. You might see some familiar faces, and they will be delighted to have the fan support.
    • an entry level pro tournament such as an ITF or a USTA Pro Circuit event. They happen all over the country just about all year long. They are free or inexpensive to attend.
    • a local college team match. There is some amazing tennis being played at that level, and often the matches are free or very inexpensive to attend.
    • If you are lucky enough to live near a larger event such as the US Open, Family Circle Cup, Indian Wells, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, etc., try to attend. Go early in the event before elimination whittles down the playing field.

Hope this got your tennis wheels spinning. What are some of your tennis resolutions?